Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952, establishing a treaty alliance with the United States. Over the past 70 years, the relationship between the two countries has faced various challenges. In the 1960s, tensions rose due to the withdrawal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis and a letter from former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson threatening not to defend Turkey over Cyprus. Disagreements over the Vietnam War also caused anti-American sentiment in Turkey.
During the Cold War, a common perspective on the threat posed by the Soviet Union helped maintain a strong government-to-government relationship. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S.-Turkish relationship grew, reaching a peak in the early 2000s when President Bill Clinton declared it a “strategic partnership.”
However, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the relationship has deteriorated. Turkey has increasingly aligned itself with China and Russia, buying defense systems from both countries. Additionally, Turkey has facilitated financial flows for Russian oligarchs and become a transit point for goods supporting Russia’s defense industry.
Turkey has also taken actions that stand in opposition to U.S. interests, including supporting extremist groups in Syria and maintaining a hostile stance toward Israel. Ankara’s decision to provide office space to Hamas and grant Turkish passports to its leaders has further strained relations with the U.S.
The article suggests that the U.S. has refrained from imposing serious costs on Turkey despite the erosion of support for Turkey in Congress. However, it also argues that the Biden administration needs to develop a long-term strategy for managing Turkey’s current trajectory, particularly given the anti-Western and nationalist ideology of the Erdogan regime.
It concludes by proposing a strategy for imposing costs on the Erdogan regime while considering the division within Turkish society. The article suggests that this approach could involve playing hardball on specific issues to demonstrate consequences for Turkey’s actions.